A riot that rocked the world

A riot that rocked the world

Pride Month events are held worldwide each year, usually in June, and while the emphasis is on celebration, the origins began on a very different kind of occasion. 

Pride Month has its beginnings in the Stonewall Riots, sometimes called the Stonewall Uprising. While there is a wide variety of histories regarding events surrounding “Stonewall”, here are the basics that most researchers, observers and analysts agree on.  

In 1969, there were laws prohibiting homosexual activity. During that time, the Stonewall Inn was a popular gay bar on Christopher Street, New York City. 

Sometime after midnight on June 28, 1969, police raided the inn. Their attempt to disperse or arrest patrons was not successful. 

From the National Archives: “Officers were forced back into the bar by the crowd until riot-control reinforcements arrived several hours later, but protesters refused to disperse until 4:30 a.m. The riots continued for several days and expanded to the neighborhoods surrounding Christopher Park. By the final day of the riots on July 3, the crowd exceeded several thousand people.” 

The turmoil brought attention to issues that went beyond the Stonewall Inn and raids on gay bars, putting the spotlight on harassment and discrimination, legal and otherwise, based on sexual orientation. 

The event sparked the formation of scores of gay rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, OutRage!

The first Pride parades were held on June 28, 1970, the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Parades were held in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. 

The anniversary has been celebrated ever since and events and festivities have expanded. In 2019, to celebrate the 50th anniversary, about 5 million people participated in WorldPride NYC. 

At that event, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill rendered a formal apology on behalf of the New York Police Department for the actions of its officers at Stonewall in 1969.

Numerous historical documents, including information from history.com and harvard.edu, were used in this report.   


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